Any unfortunate soul unlucky enough to cast a daring glance down the cobbles of Appalling Street would not only see decay and decrepit buildings, but quite surprisingly Mr Hugos-Walter Baldwin. He was an elderly man, though aged slightly due to the streets unnatural gloom, with a great mane of shabby grey hair and golden brown eyes set deep in a withered and creviced face. And though as unlikely as it seemed, Mr Hugos-Walter Baldwin was not quiet alone in the streets gloom, for he was joined by none other than Archibald Ky’rug. He- much like Baldwin- seemed like the last person you would find against the ominous backdrop of Appalling Street. He wore a faded purple overcoat, lapping up against a lace covered white shirt. On his feet were jester slippers, complementing his curly goatee and wavy eyebrows (as for the hair on his head- well that was none existent). And though both were together, Baldwin was clueless to his company.
The street itself lay in the very bowls of Hobcross village, tucked away between building far more superior and grander than those it had itself. Not many footsteps echoed off the cobbles; and for good reasons. Every brick of every building seemed deformed or cracked in some way, with grotty windows eyes could not see through and street lamps dimmed, like captives of thick dirt. Appalling Street was not the place to hold a party or celebration, more a funeral or bereavement. And so as a place to look for potential criminals or werewolves… it seemed too good to behold.
A faint tapping reached Baldwin’s ears. As a tracker of Drowler Hall he was inclined to such weak sounds (despite age being against him). And following his nature of observation he allowed his eyes to take a thorough sweep of every brick and cobble.
There was someone watching him.
Despite their attempts at concealment, they had failed to cover all their tracks in what Baldwin could only imagine as a quickened attempt at hiding. There were several wet footprints shining slightly in the moons glare. A certain smell of liquorish was tickling the insides of his nose. Uncontrollable, yet hardly detectable tapping was echoing everywhere. A slither of purple material was trapped like a fly in a spider’s web on a sharpened brick just before a shadowed doorway.
“Good day, Archer.” Baldwin grinned, instinctively putting together the clues. Jester slippers were like sponges when exposed to rain puddles, which there were several of in Hobcross today. Archer’s bronze tooth always gave him the need to conceal bad breath. Strumler stones were famously unreliable and often needed a slight tapping to keep them in place. A purple overcoat was the unmistakable sign of a Drowler Guardian, of which Archer was.
The man with the goatee stepped into the moon light from the shadowed doorway. “I thought I’d find you snooping around here,” he said, half seriously and half loosely.
“And so you have.”
The two wer’s came together in the middle of the street, gave one another a sharp nod and hand shake, and then began down the cobbles- steps in sync. Now looking down the street, Baldwin realised it was like looking down the throat of a monster. The buildings leant in slightly and finished with sharply pointed rooftops. They were like teeth, the cobbles the tongue (which had the same slimy nature) and onwards, a throat, that lead on.
“Having any problems at the Hall, Archer?” Baldwin queried out of curiosity.
“Yes,” Archer replied with a tone of impatiens.
“It’s our head tracker-”
“-He’s chasing shadows.” Archer stopped in his tracks, giving Baldwin’s smug face a disapproving look.
“Oh well, I can assure you that I have been chasing shadows; large hairy ones that come with both four legs and two.”
“What? You mean werewolves?”
Baldwin was about to opened his mouth in reply when a little figure appeared quite suddenly in front of them. He, despite a child-like size, was wearing an adult sized trench coat, with the access material drooping along the cobbles like the entrails of a wedding dress. The figures face was poorly shrouded by an overly rimmed top hat and two hoggish fangs stuck upwards out of the casted shadow.
“Wanna- buy anythin’- my fine-gentlemen,” the figure asked, although his fangs slurred his speech, “I- got everythin’ from- mud roses to- black wilder grass.”
“Can I ask were you acquired such items?” Archer asked deviously, trying to sound interested. The figure, obviously feeling more reassured by Archer’s devious approach, leant forward to whisper.
“Silver Market- o’ course- load’s cheaper- than the Golden Market.” He lifted his top hat slightly to reveal a hair ridden face. It was much like, Walter thought, the face of a Minotaur- a miniature Minotaur.
“But,” Archer continued with a smug smile, “The Silver Market’s illegal.”
“Well I don’t- care. Ruddy council raises the license of- sellin’ on- the- Golden Market almost- daily!” and then the figure lowered his voice even more, “an’ they make you wear- a ruddy- Strumler.”
“So you say you’re selling illegal items and breaking the Strumler Act?” Baldwin asked.
“What- do you two- care anyhow. Do you wanna- but ou’ or- not?”
“Well, I’m afraid not. Instead I am arresting you for a clear violation of the Strumler Act, buying off the Silver Market and selling illegal items.” Baldwin declared. “And I’m afraid I’m going to have to read you your rights.” Baldwin cleared his throat as the creatures face dropped, “You do not have the right to transform, be it either lesser or turned. However, if you do so it will be used against you as evidence in court. You have the right to hire a Guardian or else be presented with ways to be given one. You have the right to remain silent; however you do not have the right to reverberate your wer. Do you understand?”
But the miniature Minotaur did not answer, instead he swung around and began to run. But the trench coat he was wearing caught between his stumped legs. He flayed his arms wildly in the air until he crashed to the cobbles with a thud. And before he even had time to get up, Baldwin had drawn what looked like a purple bean from his royal blue overcoat. He launched the bean at the creature with surgical precision; a cloud of shimmering purple dust filled the street and when it had cleared the creature was gone- safely locked away in a Drowler prison cell. For you see, a Drowler, like Baldwin and Archer, were workers at The Drowler Hall of Crime Investigation and Illness Prevention.
“I’ll question him later,” Baldwin sighed at the idea, “We were talking about werewolves, weren’t we?”
“No.” Archer said firmly, “We were talking about your time wasting!”
“Have the council been complaining about me to you?” Baldwin queried.
“Not recently. You successfully drained them of their constant supply of complaints about a month ago-” Archer replied.
“Quite an achievement, don’t you think?” Baldwin chuckled. But Archer did not laugh.
“It’s not a laughing matter, Walter! They’re thinking of suspending you now!” He bellowed, anger getting the better of him. Archer wanted to help Baldwin, but the head tracker was not a man to accept help easily. He worked alone and unaided- much to the anger of the Wer Council- who liked Archer to ensure Baldwin didn’t turn into a free agent. Baldwin was the best at what he did; Drowler Hall was more successful just by his presence.
“On their heads it is.”
“Do you want them to suspend you?
“Not really. I just want them to accept I have a pressing case to attend to.” Baldwin stated firmly. His patience was slim when it came to the council.
“Then tell them that! All they want is a report on what you’re up to. Just so they know you’re working.”
“I have no time to sit and write a report. Anyhow, my investigations are not yet complete; I have a new lead…” Walter mystically raised an eyebrow, “…A very interesting lead.”
“Then tell me everything. I can report back to the council for you.” Archer pleaded. The look in Baldwin’s face changed quiet suddenly. It seemed torn and confused, unable to make a decision. “Do this, Walter, and I can make sure the council leave you alone for a while.”
“Very well.” He responded, beginning to walk across the cobbles again. “But you must listen carefully. I do not have time to repeat myself.”
“When haven’t I listened?” Archer murmured as he pulled out a pen and paper.
Baldwin cleared his throat and began to dictate. “Over the past months I have been to Ashcott, Bishops Cleeve, Strathaven, St Osyth and Oldham; all towns and villages with a number of things in common. One, in each area there has been five disappearances unnoticed by police. Two, in each area the number of werewolves present was well above the average. And three, the five disappearances were all followed by a single death- again unnoticed by the police.”
“Four- there was one connection between every death. Each unfortunate soul was either blood related to or distantly related to the Korton family tree. And finally, five. There have so far been five disappearances in the village of Hobcross-”
“That’s where we are!” Archer interrupted.
“Indeed it is.” Baldwin replied through gritted teeth, “As I was saying- five disappearances in Hobcross so far and there has been a noted increase in werewolves. That brings me to my present investigation- in the location of Appalling Street. Due to its infamous reputation for the constant mutilation of our society, I took it as a perfect place to eavesdrop in the irrational conversations of criminals and wolves alike in order to discover the name of the next death which will surely be taking place soon.”
“Who is it, Walter?”
“It is a distant relative of the Korton’s.”
“Do you remember Thomas Walker, Archer?”
Archer nodded and gulped at the same time.
© Copyright 2016 S Alfred H. All rights reserved.